Review: Rifle Skills / Combat Team Tactics Nov 2016: Jon W
I attended the Rifle Skills (RS) + Combat Team Tactics (CTT) class on Nov. 17-20. I’ve been following Max for a number of years and finally the stars aligned to allow me to attend my first class. From the very beginning MVT demonstrated itself to be a training facility in a league of its own. I was told on day one that “No plan survives first contact with Max.” This proved to be exactly the case. I’m not new to the tactical world (although I’m not exactly experienced either) but my previous training was not nearly to the level of quality that Max provides. I’m going to review the Class/curriculum, the instructors, and then gear, in that order.
What struck me first was the focus of the instruction. Specifically, to quote Max “It’s not all about you.” Every other place I’ve trained has a “me first” focus, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing at first. After all, if you’re going to be able to function in a tactical environment, you have to be able to make sure you’re able to run your own weapon/gear and not be dead weight to your team. Having said that, to be able to run your weapon is not necessarily to be able to fight. You can pirouette around blue barrels all day, driving your AR as “high speed” as you want, but at the end of the day that just isn’t enough; you have to be able to “Move, Shoot, AND communicate.” Shooting and moving is great fun, and you can get great instruction on those two things a number of places. Max, however, teaches you to do so while communicating, and it is striking just how easy this isn’t. He doesn’t leave you without instruction on how to run your weapon; the first day (or first two if you take the Rifle Skills, which I highly recommend) is spent learning just that. Nor is the weapons instruction wanting; quite the opposite. Max managed to squeeze more in to a single day of instruction than I’ve gotten in four days at other schools (looking at you, Front Sight). What sets MVT apart is that it doesn’t stop there – that’s just the foundation for the real meat of the course.
The name of the course is Combat Team Tactics, and the word “team” should be given special emphasis. At no point in the last two days do you do anything alone, which forces you to break outside your own shell and work as a member of a team. Any issues with communication become immediately apparent, as I found out. My buddy and I had issues communicating, and those issues, which seemed small on their own, translated into severe problems any time we tried to do anything. The breakdown of communication between me and my buddy translated to communication problems between our buddy pair and the other pair in our team, which in turn prevented the successful completion of a number of maneuvers. There is no way to practice this outside actually training as a team, and the environment at MVT is perfect for doing just that. Max and co-instructor John worked safety very well and made sure nobody was ever in danger, and gave excellent feedback as to just where the communication problems started. The drills aren’t complicated, or even difficult in and of themselves, which allows you to focus on working within your team to accomplish an objective. The drills forced me to stop focusing on only myself/running my weapon, and to pay attention to my buddy. Bad habits reinforced by standard square range “blue barrel” drills (where the only person you care about is you and the targets never surprise you) began to be overwritten. The necessity of communication, its difficulty as well as ways to make it happen under stress and around noise, was definitely my largest take-away.
Another thing worth mentioning is the seriousness with which MVT approaches each exercise. Their goal is not to get you to score better on a test, or some such. Max said more than once that he’s preparing people for combat, and that’s serious business. As such, he expects you to approach it with some gravity. You aren’t there to prove something to your friend, and you aren’t there to feel cool; you’re there to learn how to defend yourself and your team against a determined and trained enemy. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “gaming the range,” where your focus is on a better time/score/etc., but gaming doesn’t work in combat, where the enemy is concealed and sometimes surprises you. There were a couple times when a target popped out unexpectedly and had to be engaged. On one drill, I “scanned” for enemy targets and, seeing none, broke cover no more than 25 yards away from an enemy who would have smoked me had he been real, teaching me the lesson of actually scanning and not “range scanning”. The realism that Max brings to the table is beyond anything else I’ve ever seen.
About the instructors:
Both instructors were of the highest quality, and demonstrated a deep and thorough knowledge of the subjects they taught. Both strictly enforced safety to the highest level, while still utilizing live fire and realistic tactical movements for the students. At no point did I ever feel unsafe, nor did I witness any kind of dangerous situation. Safety violations were immediately caught and ruthlessly purged.
As I said before, Max approaches the training with gravity. He really wants his students to live through a combat situation, and he acts like it. As such, he is ruthless with his critiques. I took it as a form of “tough love” if you will. In a real fight, the price of a mistake is death; compared to that, getting your hide chewed out by Max isn’t really all that bad, and it drums the right way to do things deep into your skull. Max doesn’t just teach shooting, or drills, he teaches battle. Be prepared to accept it as such. John was excellent as well, highlighting many teaching points with recent real-world experience. Both John and Max made an excellent teaching team.
Regarding Gear; I showed up with what I thought was quality gear (Tactical Tailor) and while it was good for what it was, the gear made at MVT is lightyears ahead. On day two I switched to a MVT Patrol Rig in 5.56 and I will never look back. I don’t endorse lightly, but the MVT rig is the best. It is extremely comfortable, offers lightning fast reloads with no Velcro-flap/bungee-loop hassle. Retention is solid-mags won’t fall out and can be easily returned one-handed to their slots without looking. I could go on and on and on, but there’s really nothing more to say than that.
Above: MVT 556 Patrol Rig
I’ll close by saying this. If you want to learn to shoot, just about anywhere will do. If you want to learn to fight, go see Max. He doesn’t disappoint.